It's been almost a week since I visited the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo. I have been thinking about it since.
The museum itself is breath-taking. Before entering, patrons are welcomed by the 217-feet tall Liberty Memorial. It not only pays tribute to fallen WWI soldiers, but it also offers a great view of the city.
The first exhibit inside the museum is a glass bridge over a field of 9,000 silk poppies, each representing 1,000 fallen soldiers (which adds up to 9 million). I was a little confused by that number because another display showed more than 10 million fatalities between just Germany and Russia. I think those numbers must have included civilians as well while the poppy display was only taking into account soldiers. If anyone can confirm or deny this, I would greatly appreciate it.
Setting up the experience is a 15-minute documentary with archival footage and detailed narration. It was moving, but what caught me the most was the end of the film as words scrolled up the screen detailing how quickly each country got involved and which country they attacked following the (accidental?) assassination of Franz Ferdinand. The movie also explained the unrest in Europe before the Archduke of Austria's untimely death.
One museum staffer explained that Ferdinand's motercade had taken a different route, hence the question mark above. However, the 18-year-old "revolutionary" saw him go by and took the shot. He died in prison three years later from TB.
Numerous anecdotes and facts like that filled the walls and displays. A month-by-month timeline detailed key moments throughout 1914-17 (before the U.S. got involved) and 1917-1919 (from the U.S. involvement to the end of the war). Popping out from the black text were red quotes from a wide variety of involved individuals. As a journalist, I took special interest in how those individuals told their stories and assessed situations.
I also couldn't help but notice the Pulitzer Prize was first awarded in 1917. As my friend's dad said, journalism was at a peak then. Well, at least in America. In Germany, more than 2,000 papers went out of business due to paper rations. I suppose that made news more of a rare commodity.
I could go on and on about this place.
It definitely has something for everyone. In addition to the written history and statistics which appealed to me, they also had numerous weapons displays (rumor has it they're expanding in August), uniform displays, multimedia experiences and two additional buildings we didn't get to peruse in our four-hour visit.
WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars. We know that did not happen. In fact, it was just the beginning for Lenin, Hitler, etc.
It's easy to want to forget about war. But, I offer this caution: If we forget, we may be harshly reminded sooner rather than later.